Question the media should ask Giuliani: Whodunit?

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On January 2, the New York Daily News wrote that it had received the "top-secret plan" for former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's "bid for the White House." The paper stated that "a source sympathetic to one of Giuliani's rivals" had sent the Daily News a "remarkably detailed dossier" that "the source said ... was left behind in one of the cities Giuliani visited" as he campaigned for Republicans in 2006. On January 3, Giuliani campaign spokeswoman Sunny Mindel told the Associated Press that the document "wasn't left in a hotel. ... This is clearly a dirty trick." Mindel claimed that, while on the campaign trail, a Giuliani aide lost a piece of luggage, and that "[a]fter repeated requests over the course of a few days, the bag was finally returned with the document inside. Because our staffer had custody of this document at all times except for this one occasion, it is clear that the document was removed from the luggage and photocopied."

However, as blogger and media critic Greg Sargent noted in a January 2 entry at TPM Election Central, Mindel's claim "raises more questions than it answers":

If this doc was "stolen" from a piece of luggage, who stole it? An airline baggage handler? Why would an airline baggage handler be interested in this document -- unless, of course, the baggage handler was also moonlighting for the campaign of one of Rudy's rivals?

[...]

And finally, if this document was stolen, has the Giuliani camp filed a criminal complaint of some kind? And against whom?

The New York Times reported on January 3 that Giuliani advisers said "that someone infiltrated the Giuliani camp last fall and stole a document about his presidential prospects and political liabilities" and featured Mindel, who "said the document was apparently stolen from a piece of luggage during a Giuliani political trip last fall, then photocopied and replaced in the luggage." According to the Times, Mindel also "said she did not know if her office would seek a criminal investigation of the alleged theft."

In a January 3 article, the New York Post reported that "[s]uspicion ran high yesterday that Rudy Giuliani's lost White House campaign playbook was swiped by aides to Florida's new governor" -- Republican Charles Crist -- "while the ex-mayor was helping him win election." The Post continued:

Giuliani's aides were tightlipped about how it disappeared, but said it happened during a private plane ride on the campaign trail for 2006 candidates. They included Florida Gov. Charles Crist.

"During one leg of his campaign travel, all luggage was removed from a private plane and later put back on," said Giuliani's spokeswoman, Sunny Mindel.

"However, one staffer's bag was not returned. After repeated requests over the course of a few days, the bag was finally returned with the document inside.

"Because our staffer had custody of this document at all times except for this one occasion, it is clear that the document was removed from the luggage and photocopied," she added, stopping short of saying it was stolen.

"Voters are sick and tired of dirty tricks. They are interested in substantive issues and want leaders like Rudy who are as well," Mindel said.

But operatives outside Giuliani's camp said the book was taken during a campaign swing for Crist -- a Republican, like Giuliani -- whose inauguration to replace Jeb Bush as Florida's governor took place yesterday.

However, in a follow-up entry, Sargent wrote that the Post's reporting "makes the Rudy camp's explanation appear even more questionable, not less":

Finally, Mindel claims that the Rudy people made "repeated requests over the next few days" to get the bag back -- and that it was "finally returned." So who was Mindel making these repeated requests of? Wouldn't that suggest that Mindel and company know who had the bag? And was it a Crist staffer or wasn't it?

On January 4, The New York Times reported that Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac "confirmed yesterday that luggage from the Giuliani entourage was indeed missing during a campaign trip last fall." Isaac further indicated that the missing bag was in the possession of the Crist campaign for the duration of the time that it was missing and said that "[n]o copies were made" of any materials that may have been in the bag:

"They were traveling with us, and we did find a piece of luggage, and we just worked as quickly as possible to get it back to the owner," said Erin Isaac, the spokeswoman.

Ms. Isaac said she had no information about allegations by Mr. Giuliani's office that someone, somewhere, stole and photocopied the notebook; she added that the governor's office was not conducting an inquiry into those allegations.

She said that the piece of luggage was left on a Crist plane "during the chaos of the campaign," and that nothing fishy happened with the bag when it was in their custody.

"No copies were made. The bag was found and held until we were able to return it to the owner," Ms. Isaac said.

The Times further reported that Giuliani's staff claimed it does not believe the Crist campaign had anything to do with the alleged theft:

Sunny Mindel, a spokeswoman for Mr. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, issued a statement yesterday that underscored one certainty in this mystery: Mr. Giuliani, as a possible Republican candidate for president, cannot afford to alienate the Republican who is set to lead Florida through the 2008 balloting.

"We have no question that whatever happened had nothing to do with Governor Crist or his staff," said the statement from Anthony Carbonetti, a senior political adviser to Mr. Giuliani. "The mayor has the highest regard for Governor Crist."

So, the Giuliani campaign claims that the document was stolen from a bag that went missing during a campaign swing with Crist. The Crist campaign acknowledged that it had the bag and returned it to the Giuliani campaign. The Giuliani campaign, however, is not blaming the Crist campaign for the alleged theft. This, of course, leaves a key question unanswered and, apparently, largely unasked by the media: Who does the Giuliani camp believe is responsible for the alleged theft or loss of the document?

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